Mikaela Shiffrin rolls into Killington World Cup on fire, fueled by a decision to stay put

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Maybe your most recent memory of Mikaela Shiffrin is February’s Olympics, where she failed to finish her three best events and had a top individual result of ninth place. Maybe your most recent memory is her rebound last March, winning the World Cup Finals downhill and a fourth overall season title.

Or maybe it’s what happened last weekend. For the first time in her career, now in its 12th season, Shiffrin won the first two races of a season — back-to-back slaloms in Levi, Finland. They were her 75th and 76th World Cup victories, moving closer to the only skiers with more — Lindsey Vonn (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86).

The pursuit of those legends is a major storyline for the forseeable future, but is still far off as the women’s World Cup visits the U.S. this weekend for the only time this season. Killington, Vermont, hosts a giant slalom on Saturday and a slalom on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET each day, NBC and Peacock).

What’s current is that Shiffrin is back on top in her trademark event after finishing last season with her worst string of slalom results since her rookie season (a DNF at the Olympics, then ninth- and eighth-place finishes in the last two World Cup slaloms).

Shiffrin stresses before every fall that she doesn’t know where she stacks up until everybody starts racing. The preseason prep period can last months and include training on three continents. So much can change for every elite skier from year to year, yet somehow Shiffrin has managed to win at least two races in 11 consecutive seasons (tying a record).

What’s different about this year? Flying. A lack of it.

Shiffrin decided to stay in Europe rather than go back home to Colorado after the Oct. 22 season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria was canceled due to rain and snowfall. It’s the second time in her career — and first time in many years — that Shiffrin didn’t cross the Atlantic between Soelden and Levi, races always separated by three or four weeks.

“Not try and battle the jet lag so many times in a row,” she reasoned.

So she arrived in Levi — 110 miles inside the Arctic Circle — earlier than usual. It paid off with those wins over fields that included Slovakian Petra Vlhova, who last season not only won the Olympic slalom, but also the season-long World Cup slalom discipline title to firmly supplant Shiffrin as the world’s best in the event after a years-long rivalry.

“The last years I’ve been really chasing and trying to get back and trying to just kind of stay with it,” Shiffrin said after Sunday’s victory, which included what she called maybe her best run ever in Levi, where she owns six victories. “I’ve won some races, but it’s always like, oh, I was just lucky to be here now. This is a little different this year. I’ve been working very hard, my whole team, over the summer to try to get my highest level a little bit higher. I think these races showed that it’s there.”

There are other factors. Shiffrin said her back is healthy after it curtailed training at the start of the last two seasons. She has two new ski technicians. Who knows how things have changed for Vlhova after dethroning Shiffrin and winning Olympic gold.

Now Shiffrin heads to Killington, where she has finishes of second, third, fourth and fifth in giant slaloms. She has won all five World Cup slaloms held there. If she makes it six in a row, it will be her 50th career World Cup slalom victory and another sign that last season is truly in the past.

By otherwise staying in Europe through this fall and winter, it’ll be the closest she feels to being at home.

“This expectation just builds and builds, and I think I’ll feel some pressure,” in Killington, she said on ORF in Levi on Sunday. “When you win, that actually only gets harder.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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